It has been more than three years since I published my article about self -love. A lot has changed in my life and psyche since then, a lot of self-love hashtags used on Instagram, a lot of reflecting and learning has happened , and so I feel it is time to rewrite that chapter.
What I came to learn in the recent years is that more often than not, it is not as black and white as I had previously thought. As in, it is not a yes or no situation, you don't either love yourself or not, it is more of a spectrum, and while on some days it may feel easy to be loving towards oneself, on other days it will be extremely hard. In those more challenging days we need to strive towards self -acceptance, a much more realistic target. If we can accept ourselves regardless of how we are feeling, that is a big step towards unconditionally loving ourselves. And this acceptance isn’t going to be always easy either, far too many people beat themselves up for even having negative emotions. This is where I believe an aspect of the awareness of our inner child enters the picture, a popular concept, yet still very much a mystery for some when it comes to practical application. We know in theory that we all have an inner child part of our psyche (a young vulnerable part of us that may or may not received enough of love in the past.) Let us assume for the purpose of this article, that it hasn’t. Its needs were not met and now it is kind of our job to follow up on this. Makes sense intellectually, and yet when the overwhelming emotions come, well - they overwhelm us. Suddenly we forget to be unconditionally loving towards ourselves, we forget that we were going to take care of our inner child, more often than not we forget about its existence full stop. And the truth is, powerful emotions that feel overwhelming, nearly always stem from that aspect of ourselves. They are the effect of something unresolved in our formative years, in our childhood. So it really comes down to reparenting or self-parenting if you like, giving ourselves emotional validation regardless of how we feel. Supporting ourselves, not abandoning ourselves when we need it the most. This validation in time leads to emotional regulation, and that is a very loving and essential thing to do, regardless of what it may look like.
This all being said, everything I just wrote in the above chapter - is my truth and my realisation up until this point, which is why it is such a subjective, and individual perspective that may or may not resonate with you. Self-love is a personal experience and nobody can teach you how to do it right. Only we know what we need, how we want to be loved, no one else can show us, albeit they can inspire us. Essentally self-love is about cultivating a nourishing relationship with the self, becoming curious about oneself, being creative in finding new ways to meet the needs of our self, making the effort to sustain the connection with the self and so on.
Ironically we are conditioned to follow the crowd, to conform to certain standards, to oftentimes betray ourselves for the sake of others. To ignore our intuition, our taste, our individuality. Being accepted by others is of enormous importance to many people, and we so often play the losing game called “what other people think.”
Simultaneously there is an almost over saturation of the self-love and self-care hashtags, #selflove becoming a trend, without a deeper understanding of what it truly entails. Everyone knows we need to do it, everyone talks about it, but on closer inspection - there is little substance behind the form. And I wasn’t an exception, despite writing all the right things in the article about self-love only a couple of years ago, I feel like I only scratched the surface back then. To intellectually understand a truth is very different from actually embodying it.
The reality check came some time last year, when as a part of the online course I was doing , I faced an interesting task...
I had to make a post on my social media and list all the things that I love about myself, as well as attach my photo. I froze. Despite posting photos of myself often as part of my modelling job and the conditioning thereof. Despite preaching about such concepts as #selflove #selfcare often as part of my inspirational posts. But now that it came to bridging the two, to walk the walk, as opposed to just talking the talk, and to actually express love towards myself - I just sat there, feeling a mixture of discomfort, doubt and fear that others will judge me. This signals loud and clear the part of me that still thinks that self-love is egoistic and narcissistic, a big distortion and a lie conditioned into us by society. While it certainly surprised me that I struggled with this task, it was also a good self-awareness practice, a practice of catching that inner critic again. The one who loves to sabotage, the one who loves to compare us to others to our detriment, the one who has a distorted view of ourselves, holding a magnifying glass towards our weaknesses and is so often completely oblivious to our strengths.
This is the link to that Insta post of mine, and what I wrote in its caption:
“So here are the things I love about myself - my curiosity and thirst for knowledge and understanding, my resilience and will to heal and recover from all the crap that happened in my formative years, my sense of humour, my integrity, my sensitivity that is oftentimes considered a weakness in our culture and which I felt bad about for a long time. I love my courage to speak my truth even if those around me disagree, I love my body which is a temple of my soul and so is just as important as my other aspects, I love my ability to see beauty in simple things like a sunset or the way a leaf 🍁 falls from a tree. I love my talent when it comes to writing and inspiring others, I love myself for doing this exercise despite the resistance I’m feeling.”
I hope my story inspires someone who needs to love themselves a little more. One step at a time in the right direction is all we need on this journey.
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